After several hours of waiting in room 5AB (and seeing Josh get up close with some of the featured superstars outside of the room) the panel that I’d been waiting for (and the one panel that I’d decided that I had to attend was finally here).
The Sherlock Manga panel cleared out pretty quickly and swarms of people in WWE shirts (probably more Nikki Bella and Alexa Bliss than anything else) began swarming to the front of the panel room. I managed to move up numerous rows over the course of the previous two panels and obtained a pretty nice seat. A graphic for the panel appeared on the projector screen, and the excitement in the room began to grow.
The panel was moderated by the fantastic Renee Young (#SaveTalkingSmack), and Charlotte, Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Becky Lynch were all in attendance. All of the talent seemed excited and energized to be at the panel, which also featured Mattel SVP Lori Pantel.
The crowd freaked out as each superstar was introduced, and it was surprisingly pretty tough to not feel starstruck seeing so many of my favourite superstars in the same place at the same time.
The announcements came fast, and there were a lot of them (Lori noted that she wanted to get through them quickly to give fans more time with the superstars, who naturally they were really here to see). Mattel revealed everything from a line of fashion dolls featuring a myriad of the female superstars, new action figure lines, and some incredible San Diego Comic-Con exclusive figures from Wrestlemania 32 that were extremely (extremely) hard not to purchase, even though I told myself that I’d never buy another toy after the Amiibo debacle from a couple of years back.
Renee opened up a Q&A session, asking what it felt like to be able to be a part of this new line of fashion dolls. Nikki noted that it was an honour, while Bayley added that this is all because of the fans, stating that the myriad of attendees in Fearless hats, Sasha Banks glasses, Hugger shirts, and the like were the reason that all of this was happening in the first place.
Next up, Renee asked if the ladies ever have an opportunity to reflect on everything that they’ve accomplished thus far in their careers. Becky told us that just before the WM32 Triple Threat, she was sitting in a Whole Foods and started simply crying, stating that “When I started wrestling at 15, this just didn’t seem possible. To have our heads on the side of AT&T stadium just didn’t seem possible,” continuing “We just keep going, and keep progressing, and us making history is now just the norm.”
With all of the history that had been made so far, Renee asked what the ladies would still like to accomplish as their careers continue. “Main event Wrestlemania,” Charlotte said without hesitation, while Brie Bella called for an all-women’s Royal Rumble, adding that “Being a mom and now sitting and watching these girls do amazing things every week, watching as a fan. Seeing these dolls come out, and seeing these ladies be role models.” She sees these dolls and thinks that birdie can be independent – she doesn’t need a Ken doll in this day and age. Brie notes that she’s looking forward to one day explaining why she has an action figure, and tellling Birdie about everything that her and her friends did to make all of this happen. “It’s insane that I’ll one day get to see my daughter grow up and be proud of all of these women in WWE.”
Renee brought up one of the few elephants in the room, asking Nikki if her and John had set a date yet, and what she’d been up to since the mixed-tag match and proposal back at Wrestlemania. “We finally set a date,” Nikki said. “But I’m not going to say when. But it was insane getting engaged if front of all of you guys. My favourite part is watching it back and seeing John’s voice getting all shaky.” She says that she’s been busy “doing the reality thing” with season 7 of Total Divas, while waiting for her neck to continue to heal. She added that “We found out that it’s not fully fused. I have a herniation, but I think that with time it will heal.”
Renee adds, “So it’s fair to say we’ll see you in the ring at some point? To which Nikki answers “I think so.” Brie jumps in, yelling “Brie’s coming back, you’ll see!”
Brie then got some time to talk about being pregnant and giving birth, noting that Birdie’s head had a 14-inch circumference and that it was a very long labour, adding that “I feel like I was pregnant for years, it was insane. I ended up in an emergency c-section which was unfortunate.” She reveals that she’s also preparing to come back to the ring, stating that Daniel is finally letting them get their own ring, that he’ll be acting as her coach, and that she hopes to make it back sometime in 2018.
Renee asks Charlotte about her experience in switching brands, to which she says the difference has been huge, “I remember being on RAW, and thinking that I want to be better than Smackdown. No offense, but now I want Smackdown to be better than RAW. I think that just new competition, and a new group of women and men, and wanting to be the better brand – it automatically creates competition and I think that’s healthy.” She continues, talking about her goals to win the Smackdown women’s champion and becoming the first female triple crown winner.
Some really interesting questions then begin to flow as Renee asks about the very best moments in their careers. Charlotte starts, saying “I remember being in guerrilla and looking at Becky and Sasha and knowing that they’ve wanted this for their entire lives. Thinking that I was here, continuing my dad’s legacy. He spent 40 years creating this legacy and now I was continuing it.” She continues, stating that she remembers watching him retire in 2007 and never thinking she’d be a women’s wrestler, and then all these years later he’s walking her down the aisle and into the ring.
Renee asks if anyone would like to see Becky beat up Ellsworth, and the crowd responds with huge Yes! chants. “He’s in the women’s division pretty much, so I don’t see why not. Summerslam is right around the corner,” Becky adds. Brie responds “But you couldn’t do any chin locks, are you going to be okay with that?”
Bayley is the most recent NXT call up in the room, and Renee asks how much different the roster and fan base feel from when she was in NXT. Bayley says that “The roster is kind of similar; like you said I was the last one down there. So when I got to WWE everyone was there already so it was kind of just another bigger version of NXT. I kind of knew the girls and knew everybody by the time I got there.” She continues, “The fanbase is different. It’s kind of good and kind of bad. NXT fans are kind of like a family, and they watched us grow and watched us make it to WWE so they kind of know us. They’re smaller crowds, and it’s only like once a month. Now we’re live every Monday at RAW.” She adds that “AT FYE, I’ve got Bayley gummy bears. They’re incredible! Go to FYE and buy some Gummy Bears and Booty-O’s and T-Shirts and give them to your friends!’
The fan questions begin, and a little girl starts by asking what the craziest thing that they’ve witnessed backstage is. Nikki says “where do we start,” and Brie adds “This one time – yeah.” They begin to talk about a time when a Daniel Bryan match was cut short due to a potential concussion. Nikki notes that “He was screaming at everyone and cussing and Brie was trying to stop him and I was like where’s the popcorn, this is great!” Brie says “Note to self. Don’t cut Daniel Bryan matches.”
Charlotte talks about a time at TLC when her dad was acting as her manager. “He thought I really got hurt, but was a really important piece in what was supposed to happen in the end of the match. Instead of taking off the turnbuckle he was beside me like “Honey are you okay?” She began yelling at him that she was fine and that “You’re supposed to be taking off the turnbuckle!”
She continues in what may be the funniest quote of the panel. “Sometimes he would just Woo! randomly during the matches when it wasn’t about him at the time. Like, why are you wooing? This is supposed to be about me right now. The amount of stress and grey hair he caused me that first year, you have no idea. The struggle is so real.”
Charlotte points to Becky – “She had to kiss him, so I’m sure that’s up there for her.”
The next question goes to an adult male instead of a little girl. He asks about the best veteran advice they received, who gave it to them, and if any of them are related to Kurt Angle.
Brie starts, noting that when she was starting out she told Rey Mysterio that she was so nervous and that she wanted to vomit, and he said “Honestly the day you don’t feel that way is the day that you shouldn’t be in the business. Every day when you’re performing you should feel like this.” She continues, talking about just how right he was.
Nikki talks about being nervous at her first match at a WWE Live event. She says that Scotty Armstrong gave her some simple advice that she still thinks about to this day: “Just breath baby girl.”
Sasha keeps it simple with some advice from Dusty. “Just be you baby, just be you.” She says “I’ll always take that with me.”
Bayley says that Jason Styles gave her some advice from May Young, that “The day you’re not nervous is the day that you should leave.” She says that “Before going out I’m all like “Why do I do this to myself? why am I doing this?” and when she comes back from a match she just thinks, “Oh yeah. That’s why.”
Becky says that William Regal told her the the business is like riding a wave. “It’s like surfing. You have to be on the wave and just go with it. Sometimes you’re down and sometimes you’re up, but another wave is coming and you just need to go with it.”
Nikki talks about Cena asking “Why are you fighting?” She adds, “That’s always been the best question.” Noting that it even popped up in the just-released Netflix series GLOW. “Why are we fighting? It’s so true. It makes everything better, that question. Why are we fighting?”
A fan asks what match they had to prepare and train for the most. For Bayley, it was the Iron Woman match, as “It was a long 30 minutes.” For Brie, it was her feud with Stephanie McMahon, “It was like, just don’t hurt the boss.” Nikki’s match with Charlotte at Hell In A Cell was hard, because she knew that there was something wrong with her neck.
Charlotte states that “I think NXT match where I won the title vs Natalya is where I probably had to prepare the most. One, I wasn’t sure that I was ready. Two, I hadn’t really been wrestling that long. I wanted to show the world that I wasn’t just my last name.
Becky had an interesting thought that hadn’t crossed my mind before. “Maybe, I’m just thinking in terms of – the ladder match for example. It’s a matter of handling these ladders. We have smaller hands than the guys and they weigh a lot. It’s a matter of manuevering them. Same with tables. These kind of matches I need to go in and figure out the apparatuses.”
A fan notes that he’s surprised at lack of products for the rightful next Women’s Champion Carmella, and the history making champion Alexa Bliss, along with the coming winner this Sunday, the lovely Lana. “Where are they!?” he yells as the crowd boos. Josh (who was also in attendance) later tells me that this guy is at every wrestling show in the area. Lori from Mattel jokes that “The secret to really smart marketing is to keep people waiting.”
The best moment of the panel comes up next. The most adorable little girl ever is at the microphone. She can’t be more than five years old, and she has a voice that’s so high pitched that I’d bet it was inaudible to the older folks in the audience. She says “Sasha Banks……… I love you.” She begins to make her way back to her seat as Renee invites the little girl up to the stage. Sasha comes down, gives her a massive hug, and speaks to her off microphone for a moment. The crowd goes absolutely wild as the little girl heads back to her seat with tears of joy in her eyes, and Sasha gets back to her microphone and simply says “That is why we do it.”
Brian from Vancouver, who is about to begin training under Lance Storm asks for any advice they may have for people who want to be wrestlers. Becky says to “Just believe in yourself. It’s about hard work, dedication, and passion. Those are the three ingredients that will take you to the moon and back, and if you have those than nothing can stop you. Heck, I failed PE and I’m sitting up here.” Brie says that “There will be so many times you’ll want to give up. It’s about wading through those moments and thinking that there’s a reason you’re here. Believing that you can do it can go a long way. Just never give up. Nikki yells out “What’s that Brie? NEVER GIVE UP!?” As the crowd laughs.
Nikki says “When the guy who’s shirt your wearing got down on one knee and proposed.” Brie states that she learned so much over her feud with Stephanie, while Bayley and Sasha both bring up NXT Brooklyn. Becky notes “Being able to be in the ring with Charlotte and Sasha at Wrestlemania 32, and seeing the new women’s title. And also becoming the first Smackdown Women’s Champion.”
For the last question, another little kid asks “What does it feel like fighting your friends?”
Charlotte jokes that “You hit your friends harder,” while Sasha adds that “I think it makes it more fun.”
Things wrapped up pretty quickly following this. Everyone thanked the crowd again for being such passionate fans, for being in attendance, and for all of the great questions. People began to clear the room, and I attempted to approach the stage as a means to get a few closer photos for this write-up. The crowd made getting anywhere near the superstars pretty tough, but Renee Young, who I may (possibly) favour over much of the in-ring talent (male or female), was kind enough to stop for a photo. I was so excited for this. I don’t often become star struck these days after years of doing this kind of stuff, but in this moment, I did. It’s sure to be a convention highlight for me for years to come. Also, #SaveTalkingSmack.
Overall, I think that I had more fun at this panel that at any other I’ve been to in years prior. Just listening to these people answer fan questions, most of which I’m sure they’ve been asked a thousand times, with excitement and sincerity was extremely refreshing, and it definitely made me more of a fan of each and every one of them.